Psycho will be admired long after A Man for All Seasons is forgotten. That statement, so judicious today, was incendiary in 1968, when Andrew Sarris published The American Cinema, the most audacious, influential and glorious volume in U.S. film literature. As a critic for nearly half a century at the Village Voice and then at the New York Observer, Sarris, who died June 20 at 83, refined his “auteur” theory hailing a film’s director as its prime author — another renegade notion taken as gospel today. But Sarris was less a dictator than a teacher and less the commissar of critics than a romantic poet whose subject was cinema. The marriage of this Greek kid from Queens to glamorous author Molly Haskell was an enduring alliance of city street and penthouse. For 43 years, they were the Tracy and Hepburn of film connoisseurs.
This text originally appeared in the July 02, 2012 issue of TIME magazine.
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